22 July 2010

One Death in Newark

A man was killed in Newark last Friday night. A black man, unarmed, was killed by a cop, shot in the chest at point blank range.

The shooting happened in Branch Brook Park, and the man who was killed was back in town for a high school reunion, returning from his current home in Atlanta.

The policeman who fired the fatal shot has said that the suspect was resisting arrest, that he had tried to flee, and that when cornered the suspect assaulted the officer.

Why was he a suspect? The Newark police were conducting a sting operation in Branch Brook Park - "scouring the park" according to the NY Times account of the story - and caught Mr. Dean Gaymon, 48, in the sting. There are no other witnesses, so we have only the perspective of the Essex County police officer in the matter.

Mr. Gaymon was President and CEO of a Credit Union in Atlanta, and he was married and leaves behind four children.

Newark, New Jersey, had its first murder free month in 40 years in April, 2010. Crime is dropping, and maybe police have the resources to focus on quality of life crimes instead of reacting to murders, assaults, and shootings - of which there were three on the night in question.
Maybe Mr. Gaymon, despite his wealth and position or perhaps because of it, was afraid to come out for fear of the opprobium of his community. Maybe he didn't see himself as gay at all, but as a happily married man who had interests in same sex sex.

Maybe being back in Newark, especially for a high school reunion, inspired regret and longing, and led Mr. Gaymon to use poor judgment. And when he was caught he panicked, seeing in that moment the ruin of his life's work, of his reputation, of his relationships, and so he tried to run.

Maybe Mr. Gaymon assaulted the arresting officer in that panic - an assault so fierce that the 29 year old officer felt compelled to shoot him, point blank, in the chest.

What we do know is that four kids don't have their dad, and a woman is left with a lot of grief and a lot of questions.

They don't at all rise to that level, but I have to say that I have a lot of questions, too. Was Mr. Gaymon able to integrate his life fully and (apparently) chose not to, or was he unable to live an integrated life? If not, why not? Was Mr. Gaymon raised in a religious home? If yes, to what extent did all of the lies he was told in that context affect him as he was going through his adolescence? Did Mr. Gaymon identify as gay at all? Did he prefer rough trade and public sex, or did he feel that was the only outlet open to him? On a different tack, is Essex County really so adequately policed that catching guys in the bushes is a good law enforcement spend? Its murder rate was 8th in the country in 2008, and nearly eleven cars are stolen there every day; there are twenty seven property crimes committed there every day; there are over three robberies every day... you get the point, and the Essex County police work the County park to make "easy" collars and ruin lives. Chances are that we wouldn't have heard about Mr. Gaymon's story if he weren't shot, point blank, in the chest, by an Essex County officer, but had he only been arrested and not killed, his life - his career, his marriage - would have been irreparably damaged.

It's an intensely human story, and it's heartbreaking. I can't help but think of the wastefulness, the wanton wastefulness of the taking of a gifted human life, and of the chain of events that led to it. It's one death in Newark, a city that saw 80 murders in 2009, and each one of those lost lives is a damn shame.

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